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Ten years ago, QSaltLake's first cover featured a male wedding cake topper couple with black eyes and boxing gloves, accompanied by the words "Utah's fight for gay marriage."

Michael Aaron, the magazine's founder, ran the image as Utah voters went to the polls to ultimately approve an amendment to the Utah Constitution banning same-sex marriage.

This year, the conversation is radically different after a federal judge in December overturned Amendment 3, part of a wave of similar decisions around the country. But with the state fighting in court to keep the law in place, for Aaron it's also a case of things staying the same even as they change.

This month, he'll run the same image again.

"It's still Amendment 3 that we're talking about," he said. "While there's been a lot of good progress made, we're still under the same laws that we were back then. We decided to go with that idea."

Aaron received a service-to-journalism award this year from the Department of Communication at the University of Utah, his alma mater and the place where he restarted the Gay Student Union in 1982. When he became an activist, Aaron stopped using his last name publicly because he was worried his connections to the then-unpopular cause could expose his family.

"My brothers were entering elementary school and I feared they would be bullied for having a vocally gay older brother," he said, according to his acceptance speech at the awards banquet Wednesday. With parents Maranne and Neal looking on, he accepted the award with his full name.

"My name is Michael Aaron Green and I am proud to be a journalist," he said.

But being the editor and publisher of a niche publication in tough days for the business hasn't always been easy. Aaron started the paper as a biweekly with offices and a full staff of writers. Now it's a monthly, most of his employees work from home and part of the writing is unpaid.

This year, though, he's upgrading the paper stock to make the approximately 10,000-circulation Q more of a glossy magazine. He also plans to open an office again.

That's good for Salt Lake City because the publication plays "several critical roles here," said U. communication associate professor Kim Mangun, according to a transcript of her comments at the ceremony.

"It nurtures young talent by providing opportunities to be published," she said. "Also, as the city's only publication for the LGBT community, QSaltLake helps generate important discussions — between gay and straight people, among segments of the LGBT community, between parents and children."

And the publication has also broken news, from the appearance of a gay Utah man on "Survivor" in that first issue to more than 1,000 jubilant same-sex couples heading for the altar in December.

"We tend to have a very active and a very involved community, which really surprises a lot of people from other states," Aaron said. "We're pretty darn successful at politics and making change within the community."

The U.'s College of Social Work also honored LGBT activists this year. The university's LBGT Resource Center and Equality Utah executive director Brandie Balken were among four winners of the Moving it Forward Social Justice Awards.

Twitter: @lwhitehurst —

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